Members of parliament on Wednesday reluctantly approved the increment of public officers’ salary advances, but with caution that the initiative should be monitored as it has the potential to escalate the financial crisis that many Batswana are currently mired in.
Contributing to the motion raised by the Assistant Minister of Finance, Charles Tibone, which seeks to lift the total budget of annual advances offered to public officers from P5million to P30million, the MP’s said that the move will overburden the public servants, who are reportedly already deeply indebted to commercial banks and micro-lenders. The MPS said that instead, government should review the public servants payment structures.
“Although the initiative is a noble exercise designed to lift the public servants’ livelihood, I find it bizarre because government recently warned against extravagance and lobbied for budget tightening, citing the financial crunch. How do we now splash millions on advances?”asked MP Phillip Makgalemele.
For his part, Kgalagadi North MP Phillip Khwae said that the initiative is noble in that it will boost morale in the public service, but said that the change in budget allocation would have been more effective had it been geared towards restructuring of payment structures.
“I am also of the opinion the government should, instead of inculcating this culture of borrowing, rather have reviewed public servants’ salary structures” he said.
The proponent of the motion, Deputy Finance Minister Charles Tibone, said that the initiative is not meant indebt public servants, but rather to uplift lower cadre public servants who have hitherto not been enjoying the benefits of salary advances.
“MP’s should applaud this initiative because it will incorporate permanent and pensionable officers in salary scale C4 and below. Eligible employees may apply for salary advances of up to 25% of their annual salaries, payable within twelve months through monthly deductions from their salaries” he said.
In the new scheme, officers will be entitled to only one salary advance in two years, on the condition that they have finished payment on their previous advance. In the event that the employee leaves the public service before she or he fully repays the advance, recoveries of outstanding amounts shall be made from the employee’s terminal benefits.
“Government reserves the right to take legal action against defaulters to recover outstanding amounts in the event that all other forms of recovery have failed,” Tibone reassured parliament.
After the introduction of the scheme, an overwhelming number of employees submitted applications for salary advances, such that the previous P5 million limits were immediately exhausted.
“The new salary advancement is very realistic, given the current economic meltdown. As I have already mentioned, section 19 of the finance and audit act requires that the total advances outstanding at any time should not exceed P5 million or any amount that the national assembly may authorize by resolution,” Tibone concluded.